Our Conference Finance Office thanks you for bearing with us through this busy time of year. On top of the expected “extra work” during the beginning of each year, we had some unexpected things happen. One finance staff person was out sick for two weeks and another staff person has accepted a position with UW Madison (Congrats again Tou Kou!!!). Due to these circumstances, the February apportionment statements were just mailed this past week and we are actively seeking an Accountant for our office (click here if you or someone you know is interested). We hope you enjoy this issue of Finance News. Please e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions or suggestions for future issues.

Bi-Annual Property Tax Exemption Form Due

You should have received a reminder from your local taxing authority to file the property tax exemption form with the State of Wisconsin. If the form is not completed by the deadline, your church will be assessed a property tax. So it is very important that you complete and submit the form to your local taxing authority before March 31st.

Fund Balance Report

Each church needs to submit the 2017 Fund Balance Report to the District Office by April 15th. The form is available on the web link that was sent to the Pastor for accessing the charge/church conference forms. If you have any questions about the report, please contact your District Office.

The pastor plays an important role in the church finances. Not only is s/he a member of the Finance Committee, but the 2016 General Conference added the following duty in the Book of Discipline for elders and licensed pastors:

“To provide leadership for the funding ministry of the congregation. To ensure membership care including compliance with charitable giving documentation requirements and to provide appropriate pastoral care, the pastor, in cooperation with the financial secretary, shall have access to and responsibility for professional stewardship of congregational giving records” (¶340.2.C.2.C.).

The financial secretary has one of the most important and sensitive offices in the church. This person has the responsibility for supervising the offering count, promptly depositing cash from offerings, and keeping records of contributions. The financial secretary should work with the pastor by providing reports as requested, notifying the pastor of any significant changes in giving, and keeping the pastor informed of how the church is complying with charitable giving requirements.

By Jack Stubbs, Chair of Council on Finance and Administration

How common is embezzlement in our churches? Personally, I experienced the problem in two of the eight churches I served. I remember reading the Milwaukee Catholic Diocese estimate that, within memory, 30% of their churches were victims of embezzlement. That strikes me as roughly correct.

While these flags may be flying when there is no fraud, in my experience, they are all flying in cases of embezzlement.

  1. There isn’t enough money.
  2. Regular, consistent printed reports are not made available.
  3. Reports on the finances are not clear and understandable to all.
  4. Financial officers are not rotated.
  5. Original documentation (such as bank statements, vouchers, and deposit receipts) is rarely available for review.

Churches function with high levels of trust; and an embezzler uses that trust to victimize the church. In this way, financial fraud mirrors sexual misconduct/abuse in that both are the breaking of trust. Perpetrators manipulate others by pretending to be trust-worthy and, often seem to be wonderfully nice and loving people. This is so much the case that those dealing with sexual misconduct in churches look for financial malfeasance as well (and vice versa).

Our goal should be trust without being gullible. Finance committees should be discussing their expectation of the reports they would like to see. An open spirit can be nurtured by inviting questions at meetings about the financial condition of the church. Rotation of duties of financial officers can be an expected part of the office. Members of the Finance Committee should be able to review original financial documents several times a year or upon request.

In my experience, churches must be the negligent victim for embezzlement to happen. Simple and obvious policies and procedures can be followed in churches of all sizes to help prevent fraud from happening.

Some of the recent tax law changes will affect us as a United Methodist Church. First, the moving expenses paid for clergy who move will not be excludable from income for the years 2018 through 2025. This means that when a clergy moves, the amount that the conference pays for the move will be taxable income to the clergy. Second, the increase in the standard deduction has been predicted to impact charitable giving. The increase in the standard deduction will result in fewer taxpayers being able to itemize charitable donations as deductions; therefore, fewer taxpayers will receive a tax benefit when making charitable donations.

In October a U.S. District Judge found that Section 107 of the US code violates the U.S. constitution. Section 107 excludes the fair rental value of a parsonage or the housing allowance from income for income tax purposes. On February 8, 2018 both the IRS and the intervenors filed notices of their intent to appeal the District Court’s ruling. As a result, the case is now in the hands of the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.

At this moment in time, churches should continue as done prior to this case finding. The housing allowance is still excludable from a licensed, commissioned or ordained minister’s income as they provide ministerial services. Click here to read more details about the case.

So far we have had finance trainings on the North East and South East District. Please see dates below for future trainings. We invite treasurers, pastors, financial secretaries and other finance committee members to attend. The task of providing leadership for the financial ministry of a church is a great honor and awesome responsibility. We want to provide you with a basic understanding of your role and best practices. And we also want to respond to any questions or concerns you may have. Click here to register for an upcoming training.

  • March 3 - Church Finance Training - Tomah UMC, 1105 Butts Ave., Tomah, WI 54660 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.)
  • March 3 - Church Finance Training - Zion UMC, 2106 Peach St., Marshfield, WI 54449 (1:30 – 3:30 p.m.)
  • March 10 - Church Finance Training - Dodgeville UMC, 327 N. Iowa St., Dodgeville, WI 53533 (10 a.m. – Noon)
  • March 31 - Church Finance Training - Rhinelander UMC, 724 Arbutus St, Rhinelander, WI 54501 (10 a.m. – Noon)

The Wisconsin Conference staff are wishing the best to Tou Kou Khang, our current Accounting Manager, who has accepted a job with UW Madison! He has served the Conference well for two and a half years and has been instrumental in keeping the Finance Office together during times of transition. Although we are sad to see Tou Kou go, we are happy for him and his family!

The Conference Finance Office is now seeking an Accountant to fill this vacancy. This is a full-time salaried position requiring a minimum education level of a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. The selected person will process payroll, prepare the monthly reconciliations, process financial transactions, prepare reports, and provide other support to the Treasurer/Director of Administration. Interested candidates should click here to review the job description and submit their resumes.

Read the January Finance News for information on year-end finance tasks, a reminder about the importance of apportionments, upcoming church deadlines, how to handle renting a vehicle for a church trip, and a warning about e-mail scams targeting churches. Click here to view the newsletter.

  • 54.5 cents for every mile of business travel driven, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
  • Jan 13 - Statistics & Church Finance Training - Faith UMC, 1025 Tullar Rd, Neenah, WI 54956 (9 a.m. – Noon)
  • Feb 10 - Church Finance Training - SE District Meeting, Watertown UMC, 112 Hall St., Watertown, WI (9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.)
  • Mar 3 - Church Finance Training - Tomah UMC, 1105 Butts Ave., Tomah, WI 54660 (9:30 – 11:30 a.m.)
  • Mar 3 - Church Finance Training - Zion UMC, 2106 Peach St., Marshfield, WI 54449 (1:30 – 3:30 p.m.)
  • Mar 10 - Church Finance Training - Dodgeville UMC, 327 N. Iowa St., Dodgeville, WI 53533 (10 a.m. – Noon)
  • Mar 31 - Church Finance Training - Rhinelander UMC, 724 Arbutus St, Rhinelander, WI 54501 (10 a.m. – Noon)

Click here for more details to register for these trainings.

The Wisconsin Conference Board of Trustees is administering a bequest from the Groat Family. Grants are available to rural churches who are undertaking a capital/physical building improvement that addresses accessibility. Up to $10,000 in matching funds is available and applications are accepted through the year. Grants are awarded in January, April, July and October. 

Click here for additional information or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with questions.